It was just about a year ago when I had the butterscotch budino (an Italian baked custard) at Delancey. Sitting on top of its perfectly smooth camel colored cap was a pile of billowy cream with streaks of roasted banana throughout. I’ve always been a fan of pudding and its not-so distant cousins; panna cotta, pot de creme, budino, etc. so it was not too surprising that I enjoyed this dessert. What was surprising was the extent to which I enjoyed it. It was intended to be shared but I did not. Every little streak of creamy pudding that hid in the corners of the shallow jar it was served in became mine. I staked my claim after the first bitter, sweet and a bit salty taste. It reminded me of Nips, those candies that were tucked deep inside Grandma’s purse when I was a young girl. She would pull out one of the gold wrapped oval candies with their circular indentation in the middle and pass one down the pew to me during church. The nearly impossible task of unfolding the foil lined wrapper while not disrupting the service was a worthy price to pay for that sweet, toffee-like candy.
The whipped cream on top obliterated my firm prior conviction that cooked bananas tasted of cardboard mush. I happily humbled myself with mouthfuls of the roasted banana cream, accepting that bananas cooked in butter and brown sugar are quite fine indeed.
A year or maybe even two years later on a gray and drizzling January day the sudden urge for those flavors struck intensely. In my home version I opted for a simple butterscotch pudding omitting the need for an oven and the sometimes frightful water bath. I went back to my banana souflee making days at Spago while I briefly sauteed the bananas in butter and melted brown sugar. Just as the bananas started to take on a deep amber coat I splashed them with a bit of rum. Once cool I purreed the bananas then folded the sweet and very unlike cardboard mush mixture into whipped cream and placed a very generous amount on top of the creamy, sweet and that wonderfully familiar toffee flavored pudding.
This time I shared. Some.
adapted from Gourmet 2009
makes 4 servings
This is an incredibly rich, sweet and pleasantly salted pudding. A few bites was sufficient for me (and then a few bites more every day for the next week). If you’d like less sweetness you can cut the sugar down to ½ cup.
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ t kosher or flaky sea salt
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan, then whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently. Continue to whisk for 1 minute then remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, then cover surface with wax paper or plastic wrap. Chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours.
Roasted Banana Whipped Cream
2 ripe bananas, cut in 1” chunks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Rum
2 cups softly whipped cream
In a large saucepan over medium high heat add the butter and brown sugar. Continually stir the sugar taking care so that it doesn’t scorch. Cook until the butter and sugar has melted together. Add the bananas and quickly cook for just about 1 minute. You want the edges to caramelize and coat in the sugar but you don’t want them to get too soft. Turn off the heat and carefully add the rum. Stir everything together and set this aside to cool.
Once cool puree the bananas in a food processor.
Add some of the banana mixture to the whipped cream and whisk to combine. This is done to taste. I added about half of the bananas but you can do more or less.